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Life Sculpting Faith (Book Review: Picking Dandelions by Sarah Cunningham)

June 25, 2010

Memoirs? Really? But Sarah’s a decade younger than I am, what could she be writing memoirs about?

Those were my first thoughts when I heard of Sarah Cunningham’s latest book, Picking Dandelions. I first “met” Sarah through her book Dear Church which tells of her journey through some thoughts of disillusionment with the church while holding to a faith that she knew grounded her. Since then I have started following her blog and learning more about her heart and her faith. When I learned a new book was coming out I knew it would be on my reading list.

At first as I read Picking Dandelions I had a bit of a trouble connecting with the story Sarah was telling. I identified with it a lot as we are both pastor’s daughters, grew up in smaller towns, and led simpler lives growing up, but still I felt I was missing what she was telling me. Then I realized the problem was not what Sarah was sharing, but the lens I was reading through. I have been so trained by listening to the testimonies that are often shared at Church and at gatherings, and even by Christian books (I am an avid reader) that I inwardly was looking for something climatic, transformational, dramatized. I found it to be really ironic because for years I have tried to teach the student’s I work with that testimonies are not just the major turning points in life when someone falls into drug addiction or escapes from abuse, but that testimonies come from moments in everyday life where we encounter how God is working, what is changing in our lives, and how we are becoming more like Christ. Sarah described a turning point in her life…

My faith, I knew, often just sat there, unused in the container of my body, putrid like water no one had stirred in years, and an equally unappealing discovery. I began to think of myself as a museum. A terrible, obsolete, and tiresome museum that was nothing more than a stiff, shellacked collection of Sunday school prizes and witnessing bracelets from the 1980s.

Sarah said, “I’ve conditioned myself to think a certain way – and that means I can be reconditioned.” Once I reconditioned myself and changed my perspective I saw Picking Dandelions in a whole new light. Sarah is very down to earth, real, and authentic about who she is and her life. She brings a great sense of humor to her writing as she tells you about the day-to-day stories of how life sculpted faith for her. Her faith did not develop through a bolt of lightning or a major conversion, but through living in a family of believers, being raised in a church that set examples for her, and through developing friendships with people who showed her life through different eyes. I laughed at stories of the thief who stole eraser dust, grieved at stories of being in New York in the fall of 2001, and shook my head at how she created a list of her faults and set out to conquer them in her own power in an effort to change (this head shaking wasn’t out my own pride at seeing a different way of doing it…really it wasn’t…yeah right! Maybe I need to make my own list.). What I found was a real person that we all can identify with. Life includes dirty laundry, dealing with peer pressure, and trying to find our identity. Faith is developed and grows in the midst of that, at least for most of us it has. Faith and living it out comes through making daily decisions about who we will be, how we will live, and what shapes us. The roots we lay down, the things that water us, and the seeds that go forth are a part of the lives we lead. There may be some roses that earn the spotlight on stages and in the public eye who are held up as examples, but most of us have lives and faith that look more like a dandelion next to those fancy, polished flowers in the garden. Thankfully, we have a very wise gardener.

After all, the Master Gardener knows how to work even the most flawed plants into his beautiful landscapes. He is one of the only beings, perhaps, who, when choosing plants for his masterpieces, could get away with picking weeds.

Grab a cool drink, a comfy chair, and enjoy a few moments of reminiscing with Sarah and Picking Dandelions!

Looking for other great books to read this summer? Here are a few of the best books I have read this year: Plan B by Pete Wilson, War of Words by Paul David Tripp, and The Fisherman by Larry Huntsperger.

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